Saturday, June 21, 2008
CHINA CONDEMNS DALAI LAMA AT EVENT OF 'HARMONY'
hatever the Communist Party was looking for today, a harmonious Lhasa was nowhere to be found by the limited group of journalists permitted to witness the show. Everyone knew the cheering spectators were carefully pre-selected.
Paramilitary police kept a close watch from the ground and from surrounding buildings, while the area was cordoned off to everyone other than those given special passes to attend the relay, an AFP photographer witnessed...Reporters were allowed to be present at the start and the finish points, travelling between them in a guarded convoy. They were effectively isolated from contact with ordinary residents.
The first few minutes of the event, which appeared to have been carefully rehearsed, were transmitted live on Chinese television.
Most ordinary Tibetans were not welcome, as predicted months ago by Lhasa tourism agency organisers.
"We are not supposed to leave the hotel to watch the relay, so we are staying inside," an employee at the Tibet International Hotel told AFP.
A taxi driver said he had received instructions from his company over the cab radio that a curfew had been imposed along the relay route on Saturday.
"This torch relay was not interesting, as they didn't let people come out," he said.
However, courts on Thursday and Friday also handed down "punishments" to 12 people involved in the unrest, Xinhua also reported, bringing to 42 the number punished so far.Far more than 42 have been punished, if you count those beaten or electrically shocked out in the open, or tortured to near death behind closed doors, following their peaceful demonstrations of conscience.
No Buddhist monks were seen anywhere in the vicinity of the Potala yesterday. Today there was a security cordon around the entire area.
"They all stay in their monasteries and they can't go out," a taxi driver, who refused to give his name, said Friday.The relay began at Norbulingka Palace, the very place His Holiness was forced to escape disguised as a nomad 49 years ago, when his people surrounded the summer palace to prevent him from attending another CCP-sponsored show, fearing he would be captured. When the Chinese realized he wasn't going to attend, they bombarded it, killing many monks. Witnesses saw the soldiers next morning turning the bodies over, hoping to find him. The Chinese military chased him all the way to India. And here we are.
At the closing ceremony, on a stage below the majestic Potala Palace, Chinese officials used the occasion to (you guessed it!) denounce the beloved spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. What is the matter with these people?
"Tibet's sky will never change and the red flag with five stars will forever flutter high above it," Tibet's hardline Communist Party boss Zhang Qingli said at a ceremony marking the end of the two-hour relay through strictly guarded streets.
"We will certainly be able to totally smash the splittist schemes of the Dalai Lama clique," he added, in front of the Potala, traditional seat of the Dalai Lama, the most powerful figure in Tibetan Buddhism.
The PRC flag and the Olympic banner were not the only flags on display today.
At the start of the relay, groups of students -- Tibetan and Han Chinese -- waved Olympic banners, the Chinese national flag, and the hammer and sickle banner of the ruling Communist Party.After the nail-biting period was over, and the officials and invited guests had gone home, shops began re-opening and people came outside to look around.
"We are convinced that the Beijing Olympic Games' torch relay in Lhasa will further inflame the patriotic spirit of the people," Lhasa's Communist Party boss Qin Yizhi said at the opening ceremony, adding it would also help "smash the scheming of the Dalai Lama clique".
But in the Barkhor neighborhood of old Lhasa -- a web of alleys centered on the Jokhang temple -- Tibetan residents showed little enthusiasm for the relay and spoke flinchingly of the unrest, crackdown and a dearth of business and jobs.They're not scared, they're banned. Don't they have newspapers in Lhasa? Oh yeah right, I forgot, just mouthpieces.
"It's still very tense... Best not go out at night," said one Tibetan jewel shop owner. "We're waiting for the tourists to come back, but they're not coming. They're still too scared."
Asked about the relay, another local said, "We have other things to think about." She and the shop owner did not want their names used.And that's about the extent of the un-vetted comments journalists were able to find today. Tibetans have other things to think about -- like the Cultural Revolution-style rhetoric constantly emanating from their "leaders," obviously intended to intimidate them into quietly accepting "harmony" with Chinese characteristics.
Her Flaming Harmoniousness heads to Amdo (Qinghai) tomorrow.